13 Oct 2013

Mini Reviews 13/10/2013

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

Also this week, Matt C's New Mutants Project concludes.

THREE #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Ryan Kelly & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Matt C: From Gillen’s essay in the back this appears to be his response to the mythologizing in 300, attempting a more accurate and balanced take on the era (within certain parameters). My knowledge of Spartan history is minimal at best so I can’t pass comment on whether this debut issues achieves the writer’s aim, but from a purely storytelling perspective it’s a compelling opener, one that digs into the social structure of Sparta circa 364 B.C. Again, I know little of the period, but it comes across with a strong sense of authenticity and both Kelly’s assured linework and Bellaire’s subtle colours help emphasise the slow-building tension that drips with inevitable violence. “This is Sparta!” bellowed King Leonidas in 300 – he may have been right, from a certain perspective, but there’s probably a very reasonable argument to be made that Three is a bit closer to the truth. 8/10

James R: Kieron GIllen is a big favourite of the PCG. We've been lucky enough to meet the man in person a few times now, and he couldn't be a nicer guy. At the recent Melksham Comic Con, we all felt his panel on writing for comics was a definite highlight, and a few of us have been really impressed with his stewardship of Young Avengers. When I found out that he was writing a new series for the creative wonderland that is Image Comics, there was no doubt that I'd take a look. However, just as I didn't quite connect with his WW2 book Uber, it's the same here with Three. It's fantastically researched - as Gillen highlights in his essay at the back of the book - but there's something missing. Maybe it's the lack of focus in this opening chapter; we're not really given long enough with the eponymous three Lakonian slaves to feel any connection with them, and the Spartans are portrayed as 2D bastards. Gillen writes that he's tried to write a tale "As accurate as I could make it while still telling a story." He says that he considered making the book more social realist, and teases that "Maybe one day I'll write that book." I think that's the one that's more to my taste as for me Three falls between a historical tale and an action comic, and doesn't quite work as a result. 6/10

DEATH SENTENCE #1
Writer: Montynero
Art: Mike Dowling
Titan Comics $3.99

Matt C: An STD that causes temporary superpowers before bringing premature death is a pretty nifty idea to play with and there’s been a fair bit of hype surrounding Death Sentence that suggested it may have come at that idea from just the right angle. Now, maybe I’m missing something vital, but I didn’t come away from this debut issue especially impressed and while there are elements that were engaging, overall it’s not a tale I feel like I need to return to. The main issue for me is something that is almost a default setting for some Brit writers detailing the exploits of their fictional countrymen: the unpleasant protagonist. It’s a difficult trick to pull off, turning a not particularly likeable individual into someone you’d want to spend time with; Warren Ellis is someone who knows how to do it, Mark Millar on occasion, but Montynero has two unlikeable protagonists (one a rather embarrassing Russell Brand analogue) who are just plain obnoxious. There’s a third whose plotline is appealing, and grows stronger as the issue progresses, but it’s not quite enough for me to want a second helping, and even Dowling’s suitably grimy artwork can’t sway me. 5/10

COFFIN HILL #1
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Art: Inaki Miranda & Eva De La Cruz
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: I didn’t know what to expect from this but the previews in various Vertigo books caught my eye. Well, it’s more truthful to say Miranda’s slick, gothic illustrations caught my eye – I didn’t actually read it, I just thought that it was something I’d probably take a look at when it came out! Now it’s on the shelves and I’ve gone beyond the art and read the words I have to say it’s a pretty fine first instalment. Trouble is, as well done as it is, the genre it tackles – the supernatural – isn’t something I often click with, and Coffin Hill doesn’t look like it’ll be one of the exceptions. What I will say is that if you are a fan of the genre then you should pick it up immediately. It’s not my cup of tea but it’s very well done and I think it’ll make more supernaturally-inclined comic book readers very happy. 7/10

THINK TANK #10
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Rahsan Ekedel
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Matt C: We’re so bombarded by information these days it often feels like an impossibly daunting task to wade through it all and find those worthwhile nuggets of knowledge that are keepers. Fortunately, if you’re after some bleeding edge science and/or volatile world politics type info then Matt Hawkins is your man as he does the initial legwork for you. So, along with a genuinely enthralling, emotionally connecting, wonderfully illustrated high-tech thriller we also get some well-researched, illuminating factoids about the world we’re diving into, delivered in a way that enhances rather than distracts from the narrative. Smart, witty and informative, Think Tank deserves a place on your pull-list. 8/10

INFINITY #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

James R: File this one under: 'Pure Fanboy Enjoyment'. We often laud Jonathan Hickman here for the intelligence and big ideas that he brings to his books, but this issue is all action, a set-piece that the teen fanboy inside me went 'OOOF!' at - and that's no bad thing. Following on from the Black Bolt's show-stopping denial of Thanos in the last instalment, this issue brings us their battle, as the Terrigen Bomb triggers a worldwide transformation, turning humans into Inhumans. I couldn't help but think of the end of Avengers Vs X-Men last year when the Phoenix Force triggered a, erm, worldwide transformation that turned humans into mutants. But I digress! The real fun to be had in this issue comes via Thor, when we learn that a) the God of Thunder is a pretty nifty negotiator, and b) there's all kinds of fun to be had with massive mystical hammer that you can throw through a sun! The beautiful art of Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver would justify the cost of this book alone, but the Thor sequence was a blockbuster moment that would be a highlight in any event book. The two halves of Infinity - the Thanos stuff, and the Builders - are not quite joining together well enough for this to be a classic, but it is a lot of unashamed fun. 8/10

Matt C: I’m still firmly in the camp that believes Infinity to the best Marvel event for years and a huge part of that is down to how successfully Hickman is orchestrating the narrative between the three core series (this, Avengers and New Avengers). The battle royale between Thanos and Black Bolt continues, the Terrigen Bomb has detonated and the Earth is about to change for ever. But that’s only part of it. Elsewhere in the galaxy Captain America’s plan reaches fruition as Thor approaches the Builder-held Hala to sue for peace, but his role as negotiator is just a feint, his real goal something more fitting for a God of Thunder. It’s one of those sequences that builds up to a moment of air-punching awesomeness that only events books can deliver, and the fact that such an accomplished art team is bringing it to the page just makes it that much better. It’s such a rarity to see a sequence so perfectly executed that nothing else this week could match it. 9/10

BATMAN #24
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo & Danny Miki
DC Comics $6.99

James R: As DC's New 52 project has slowly (and rather horrifically) unwound into a sea of mediocrity, as a Bat-fan it's been really reassuring that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have carried on regardless, producing - for my money - a consistently great Bat-book. As cross as I am that the whole '5 years' problem hasn't been resolved, I'm untroubled by Snyder having the confidence to rewrite Batman's origins with 'Year Zero'. I'm firmly in the Grant Morrison school that says a character such as the Dark Knight can be interpreted and portrayed in a multitude of ways - as long as you stay true to the character. I think Snyder certainly does stay faithful while giving a nod to the Bruce Wayne's rich history. For example, when we see his 'first appearance' in this issue, he's sporting the purple gloves that he did way back in Detective Comics #27 - and that iconic cover is then referenced by Capullo. It's a massive 54-page issue (as the price tag suggests) and as well as redefining Batman for another generation, he does a great job of redefining the Joker too. He's revealed to be the dark intellectual equal and double of Batman, and I personally liked that comparison. We're left with an epilogue that teases a Riddler tale next, and for me he remains the great underwritten Batman rogue. 24 issues in, and with many of their counterparts looking shaky, Snyder and Capullo are still looking strong. 8/10

NEW MUTANTS #50
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Jackson Guice, John Beatty & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $1.25

Matt C: A double-sized issue that serves as the finale of the Magus storyline and also sees Charles Xavier roped back into the proceedings with the Starjammers in tow. It’s kind of nice to see Charlie back in the mix and, sans wheelchair, it’s good to see him take a more active role as team leader when the final showdown commences. It’s quite an action-packed instalment but even at twice the usual page count it does feel rather rushed in places, and the Magus is never given any opportunity to become anything other than a one-dimensional villain (although he does provide Guice with some outlandish artistic opportunities). It ends on a fairly poignant note and fifty issues in, provides a me with a chance to step away from my New Mutants Project for the foreseeable future. 6/10

3 comments:

Living Tribunal said...

Matt, I wouln't mind if you stepped away from New Mutants permanently and picked up either Micheline/Layton Iron Man or Walt Simonson Thor.

Matt C said...

Simonson's Thor may be a contender although I don't wish to be predictable.

Living Tribunal said...

Well, there's Miller's Daredevil, David's Hulk, or you really want to be ambitious - Claremont's X-men